8 Steps to better programmes…
Programme design is critical to getting results.
A truer statement has never been issued I hope you’ll agree? Otherwise aren’t we just hoping for something good to happen and ignoring what has gone before? That body of evidence that can short cut the process a touch?
But hang on a minute, critical doesn’t mean complicated.
Critical can be super simple too.
If I’m honest, the reality of the job forces simplicity.
Your athlete or client arrives for their session and they have an injury, or they haven’t fuelled before the session, or they have to leave early, or they have a technical session straight after, it goes on and on and on….
So the programme you planned goes out the window.
Here’s my approach, something that has evolved into simplicity over the last 10 years. Feel free to critique me on this by the way, I’m a big boy, I can take it!
1. Think about your athlete or client, their experience, their goals. What do they NEED and what do they WANT (Often 2 very different things). Form a picture. Don’t think about what YOU want or need, it’s all about the client.
What’s the goal? Where do you want to take this client?
2. Think about your critical exercises. The ones that MUST be in the programme on a weekly, or microcycle basis.
Your bang for your buck.
Squats, Deadlifts (and variations), pulls, presses. What do you use to develop strength, power, athleticism?
3. Then think supplementary or assistance exercises.
The ones that support the critical movements but don’t make up the programme on their own.
Think RDL’s, Incline Presses, Pullovers, Split Squats, Single Leg Squats.
4. Then think specific movements- to the athlete, to the sport.
Write into a spreadsheet numbers 2, 3 and 4. Don’t worry that you can’t use ALL your critical exercises with a particular client. Thats where intelligent exercises selection comes into play. Not everyone will squat for maximal strength for example.
5. Now you need to put these into the session plan using categories.
Here’s my basic exercise categories:
Total Body Explosive
Upper Body Push
Upper Body Pull
Lower Body Knee Dominant
Lower Body Hip Dominant
Tick these boxes by apportioning your critical first, then your assistance. In general we need to have some unilateral work, some bracing and anti-rotation/extension, some fluency work, free movement.
From an exercise order perspective we want to go from the warm-up into power work, then strength work, then supplementary conditioning or work capacity. There are exceptions to this rule but as Mike Boyle says you have to learn the rules before you break them!
6. Then you can plan the warm-up.
What comes first to prepare for the session.
To prime the work that follows.
How does this look for the full week/phase?
7. Then plan in your recovery/restoration work. We have to bear in mind that it’s not about how much we can do it’s about how little to force the adaptation we are looking for.
8. Use every single session as an assessment process to learn about your athletes. How they move, their mindset, their response to coaching. Step 8 is your in-built flexibility and reflection. It’s not intelligent to stick with a programme that doesn’t engage your clients. Changing it is the smart move.
Throughout this process we need to have the end in mind. What are we trying to get from the session, the cycle, the phase. Where does this programme fit within that? What comes before, what will come after. What kind of movement are we looking for?
Of course we need to base our choices around the equipment, facilities, and environment that we are working with. No use having snatches in the programme if you don’t have platforms or your athlete can’t perform them for some reason.
Now steps 1-4 can be done in advance of the session. Athletes are humans, things change regularly. So steps 5-8 can be planned, but often need to be changed at the last minute.
If you get steps 1-4 done you can complete 5-8 in 5-10 minutes at the start of the session if you need to. Of course it helps to plan in advance but sometimes it’s not possible and sometimes its better to put it together on the day especially with novice athletes.
For me, if you follow this process you will design better programmes. Both in advance and with short notice. Do the work to get the thoughts down on paper then you can rely on this when it counts…in the session!
Here’s to better programmes!